Clean Power Invisible Solar Cells

Published on June 21st, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen


One Step Closer to Invisible Solar Cells in Our Windows

June 21st, 2012 by  

Invisible Solar Cells

“That’s not a window – that’s a solar panel.”

At least, that’s what one might be able to say at some point, according to New Energy Technologies, Inc. The company is known for its development of see-through solar cells (which we’ve talked about before), and this week it’s just a little closer to making its almost invisible solar cells a production reality.

The new breakthrough involves the manufacturing technique the company uses. Working with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy thinks it has figured out how to get material cost down and has also designed a new application technique. Said technique is supposed to raise the conversion efficiency of the finished product.

It’s Not So Hot In Here, After All

The most important part of the new process is that it doesn’t require high-temperature vacuum deposition, which is expensive and takes forever and is exactly what it says on the tin — depositing super thin layers slowly (molecule by molecule) at high temperatures in a vacuum. The new process works at low temperatures, meaning the company can produce its solar panels with both roll-to-roll and sheet-to-sheet manufacturing.

In other words, New Energy Technologies is a massive step closer to mass production. President and CEO John Conklin spoke briefly about the potential of his product as a whole:

“Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow™ prototypes, and have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL. Earlier, we developed our first-ever working SolarWindow™ prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings.

“Together, these achievements have moved us closer to our manufacturing, scale-up, durability, and power production goals — all important factors to advancing our SolarWindow™ technology towards commercial launch.”



Just So You Remember How It Works

The totally see-through solar windows involve super-thin solar cells layered onto glass. The cells are arranged in a network, and then each cell is connected to its fellows with more-or-less invisible wires. Electrons are knocked off their atoms and start moving, generating an electric potential difference, and the energy is converted into usable electricity (this part is fairly standard for solar cells; the neat part is that all the mechanisms are transparent).

New Energy also hopes the product’s shelf life will be improved with its recent discoveries, which would be good news for its customers. New Energy hopes to eventually get its product onto 85 million commercial and residential buildings in the United States.

Personally, I can’t think of a better place for solar panels than on the windows (I love windows, I mean, look outside!). What about you? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: New Energy Technologies
Image: New Energy Technologies

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About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.

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  • The super thin solar cells layered onto glass will save huge amount of cell material. I wonder if this technology combined with printable solar cells with suitable substrates can work wonders?

  • sabkon wells

     hi. its really nice to read about such relevant awesome technologies.thanks for sharing this article. also i agree with all the guys here that installing solar devices may be a costly affair at present but in the long run its quite a bargain. will be looking for more updates.

    Photovoltaic Solar Panels

  • At first I wasn’t impressed by PV windows, I thought the roof seemed a more logical place for PV, but then I realised a couple of things.  In some places in the world a square metre of south facing window gets more sunshine than a square metre of flat roof and PV glass could have incredibly low installation costs for large buildings with lots of glass panels.  After all, the cost of the glass would have to be paid for anyway, as would the cost of paying someone to install it.  The only extra cost would be the electrical connections and the PVing process itself.  And I guess shipping costs too if the PV glass comes from further away than the plain glass that would have been used.

  • Ghostdawg

    Does anyone know how efficient this new sample is? I hope they can get the efficiency up to an acceptable level. Even at 5% efficiency, which is very low, this could be a game-changer.

    This could be the enabling technology to finally realize the promise of Solar Skyscrapers.

    Create a manufacturing process/tool which can apply the transparent cells and wiring directly to structural glass, and you have a machine which basically prints money.

  • sleipner

    I’d think this would be great for a combo power / hot water heating system, put glass on the top then water or coolant below it in heat absorptive tubing.  If you coat the whole roof with it, that might help reduce air conditioning too since the heat would be wicked away towards your hot water heater or pool…

  • Joy John

    A cooling glass…..!!!

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